As a recently licensed commercial drone pilot I’ve got to say that the Prescott area offers a lot of scenic views for drone photography. Places like the Granite Dells, Granite Basin, Thumb Butte, Lynx Lake, and Goldwater lake offer some amazing visual opportunities. With that said, aerial photography with drones in the tri-city area offer some major challenges as well. If you’re a drone pilot, recreational or commercial, pay attention to this article with care!
Recreational or Commercial, there are rules folks!
Drone pilots are out there every day working in many industries now. Successful drone missions happen every day. You never read headlines about that in the paper, and you never hear about the benefits of drone work in daily news broadcasts. But you do hear of any incident whatsoever when it comes to drones being irresponsibly piloted. And if you’re interested in aerial photography, you’ve got a job ahead of you. Keep it safe, follow the rules, and keep it fun for your fellow drone photographers.
The recreational lands surrounding Prescott offer some amazing photographic opportunities. Stunning granite formations, towering mountains, scenic mountain lakes and ponds. And many of these areas offer restrictions of one type or other. If you’re planning on flying here, you need to be well versed in the rules governing your flying camera.
- The Granite Dells: Personally, I’m dying to fly Watson and Willow Lake, and publish images and video from both locations. You know, on YouTube. But currently you’ll find that I haven’t posted any aerial video here or elsewhere online of these locations. Why? Simple, the Dells are within 5 miles of Prescott’s local Airport, which is a D Class airspace. As a commercial pilot, I’m waiting for my Certificates of Authorization. I submitted 1 month ago, and expect to wait two more months. For recreational pilots, you can film and shoot for non-commercial purposes, so long as you call the control tower prior to flying in the Dells. If you don’t do that, you’re operating illegally and you’re contributing to misunderstandings about drone flight and photography. Do the right thing.
- Granite Basin and Granite Mountain: Granite Mountain dominates the landscape and skyline here in Prescott. It’s a location begging to be imaged from above. And you can do that, but not everywhere you like. While the Forest Service isn’t against drone piloting, there are Wilderness areas within the park that you are NOT allowed to fly. If you are uncertain where the area begins or ends, feel free to check out SkyVector.com. Take a look at the sectional charts and see for yourself. Why do these wilderness areas not allow drones? Well, in the case of Granite Basin there are Peregrine Falcons nesting in the area.
- Thumb Butte: The area surrounding Thumb Butte is incredibly scenic as well. The iconic mountain spire, the dense pine forest, the network of trails throughout the area. All of these items contribute to possibly amazing aerial images. And that’s great. But within the area of Thumb Butte there’s an E Class Airspace. And it’s from the surface on up. You’re going to need to place a call to the ATC if you’re interested in flying there as a recreational pilot as well. And if you’re a commercial pilot, well you know the rules too.
- Goldwater Lake: This area is pretty much fair game for drone photography. Just keep in mind it’s a busy location, and also keep in mind the FAA rules. No flying above people without a waiver. And given the fact that almost no waivers allowing flight over people have been issued, you should know better! 😉
- Lynx Lake: Another highly photogenic forest service area. And also, another place that has wilderness area restrictions. Why is this area restricted? Bald Eagle nesting.
Bottom line, do your homework first
Before taking flight for aerial photography here, you’d better be aware of where you can and can’t go. Even for recreational pilots there are still rules to protect the safety of those around you, and to protect you as well. If you’re uncertain about where you can and can’t go, be sure to check the sectional charts in the area. And believe me, there are many drone photography possibilities here. If you’re flying within the rules, you have the potential to create some very stunning and unique images!
For more resources on planning your aerial imaging here in Prescott visit the following links:
- Skyvector.com: Bottom line, you’ll see the airspace restrictions and wilderness areas with this aeronautical mapping service.
- 800WXBrief: Check in with WXBrief before your planned flight for the latest weather information, and a record of you checking in prior to flight.
- B4UFly: This app comes directly from the FAA. Before you fly, check the app to make certain you are legal in the area you intend to fly.
- HoverApp: Weather, KP Index, wind speeds, and a check to see if you’re good to fly. Hover is an incredibly helpful tool that lets you know of any potential safety issues prior to your flight.
A quick aerial video from an old silver mine south of Prescott
One example of the sites you can see from above near Prescott……